Nights at the Opera – in Ireland

1.  Lyric Opera Productions

Lyric Opera Productions has been presenting a succession of excellent operatic events, in the National Concert Hall in Dublin, since May 1995, when A Viennese Evening was staged. Sixteen years later, in February of this year, a glorious production of Franz Léhar’s The Merry Widow was given and fictional Vienna was again centre stage.

In between such operetta offerings, many of  the better known and more  popular  full blown operas (mostly from the great Italian  canon) were produced – from Figaro to Turandot – and they helped cement the company’s reputation for quality, integrity  and, most importantly,  passionate artistic and financial independence.

In recent years the Irish concert première of Verdi’s previously unseen Attila was folded into the mix. The centenary of Verdi’s death in 2001 was also heavily underscored. Established singers occasionally sang roles for the first time, such as Cara O’Sullivan’s Norma and Lucia di Lammermoor, while many opportunities have been afforded to young Irish born and trained singers to get valuable performance experience on a professional stage.

This year, at Lyric Opera Productions, this visionary mission will be further strengthened with a first ever production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (May 14th and 16th), followed by a reprise of Verdi’s Il Trovatore (October 15th, 17th and 19th). Bookings are taken at (01) 417 0000 and at

2. Next month in the Mozart opera  young singers, who previously worked at the Opera Fringe Festival in Downpatrick (2002-09), get to stretch their operatic wings and to fly a little closer  to the sun: Dean Power, Marcella Walsh and John Owen Miley Read, to mention a few.

The mastermind behind this unsurpassed and single-minded initiative is artistic director Vivian Coates.

With the demise of Opera Ireland in November last year, with Opera Theatre Company’s extended remit (to tour small to medium scale productions) hanging in the balance – and given Wexford’s insistence that it is an international opera festival which just happens to be based in Ireland – Vivian Coates’ claim to be the sole, current provider of opera in Dublin can and should be positively and pro-actively supported by all opera lovers on this island.

There is of course a harsher way of looking at this: in the context of the provision of operas in Europe and in its capital cities, Dublin’s standing – a city with a great tradition of regularly presenting high-end opera productions – is little short of pathetic, and it seems inevitable that, in the current economic cesspit in which Ireland will find itself struggling to breathe normally for years to come, the proposed Irish National Opera will be seen as little more than a pious aspiration. I hope I am wrong. Do please send me evidence to the contrary.

Hats off then to Lyric Opera Productions ( and to Cavaliere Coates – a title bestowed on him four years ago by the President of Italy for promoting Italian opera in Ireland – for both sticking the pace and setting the standard.

It is always of interest to note the presence of many northerners attending and enjoying his productions, especially in the two years since both Opera Fringe and Castleward Opera (1985-2009) were shafted unceremoniously, after public grant aid was withdrawn instead of being re-invested as development funding.

This series of articles will continue here shortly with profiles of Opera Theatre Company, Wexford Festival Opera and The Met: Live in HD series.

George Fleeton teaches Opera Studies in Queen’s University Belfast.  His annual workshop there – on the life and career of Maria Callas  -takes place on May 23rd. Details at 028 9097 3323.

He also runs Downe Independent Promotions whose objective is to bring quality arts and cultural events to parts of the country where such things seldom happen. He may be contacted, initially, at: